Working trials

What are Working Trials?

The easiest way to explain working trials is to say that it is the civilian equivalent of police dog work, but it is purely for competition. It has also been described as the canine equivalent of three-day eventing for horses.


John says he chose this activity in the late 1980s and early 90s because he was competing in obedience and wanted something more challenging for his dogs. He competed for around ten years, qualifying two of his dogs. His first trials dog was Cindy, Wicklow Triangle Cdex Udex Wdx Td open.

Johns team from 1990 l to r Sue, Tigger, Cindy and Bobbie

John has returned to the sport after a break of twenty years. He currently has four dogs, all Border Collies or collie crosses – Max, Skip, Jay and Whisper.

Who runs the sport?

Working trials are run under Kennel Club regulations and the schedule is constructed so that competitors must qualify for entry from one stake to the next, from open to championship trial. There are two classes of working trials and five working trials stakes which must be worked in progression.

the scale

The working trials stakes consist of three sections:

  • obedience, including heelwork, retrieve, stay etc
  • agility, including the ‘scale’, the high jump and the long jump
  • nose work, which is a track to follow and a search square with articles to find.

There is a fourth section relating to police dog work, which is where the dog has to apprehend and contain a suspected criminal.

the stay

There are 7 stakes in working trials:

  • Special beginners (no jumps) for dogs from 6 months old
  • Introductory, for dogs over 18 months
  • CD – companion dog stake
  • UD – utility dog stake
  • WD – working dog stake
  • TD – tracking dog stake
  • PD – patrol dog stake (police dogs only)

What do you have to do?

John says the reason he likes working trials is that you are working in different disciplines: obedience, agility and nose work. You are competing against a set standard and if you meet these requirements you have a qualification and a certificate, even if you finished last out of 20 competitors. (Sounds like my kind of activity!)

long jump

The drawbacks with working trials is the equipment requirement of a 6ft scale (like a wall or fence), a 3ft hurdle jump and a 9ft long jump. There is also the challenge of being able to use a farmer’s land for tracking training.

Smaller dogs are disadvantaged when it comes to the jumping section. However, in the companion and utility dog stakes the scale is lowered to 4ft. The most successful breeds of dog in working trials are the Border Collie, German Shepherd and the gundogs such as Retrievers.

How often do you train?

John says he trains quite frequently throughout the week as he is retired. However he feels that you can succeed in any dog sport if you are committed. “I had my most success when I was doing a full-time job and running 6 dogs.”

Whisper doing the nose work

Thank you very much to John and his dogs for this valuable insight!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the Dog Doc blog for more help with training issues.

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